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How Couples Can Stop Fighting Over Money

This is part one of three on how couples can resolve the constant fighting over money in their daily lives.

fighting over moneyTired of fighting over money with your significant other? You are not alone. Money related problems consistently rank as a top reason so many marriages end in divorce.

This should not come as a shock. When approaching anything major in life, the conversation must inevitably turn to the financial ramifications. Big-ticket items such as shelter, food, career, education, retirement, healthcare, and transportation all have money serving as the underlying theme in the discussion. And when all the minor day-to-day decisions are factored in, it becomes clear money is at the core of almost everything we do.

Many couples do not adequately prepare for the challenges money decisions will create. With each person bringing into the relationship a different background, personality and opinion, money can easily ignite a firestorm of controversy as these differences clash with one another. Before you know it, the continuing conflict can lead couples into thinking they were not meant for one another.

It doesn’t have to be this way though. Couples can implement a plan that will keep them from fighting over money. You can live in harmony together. Getting on the same financial page with your significant other should be a top priority if you desire to have financial success and create deep bonds of intimacy in your relationship.

Steps to Stop Fighting Over Money

Step #1: Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

Simply talking remains the critical first step that will lead to less fighting over money. We all love to talk about ourselves and share what’s important to us. So one would think this would come naturally and not be an issue.

Not so.

Our selfishness often gets in the way in that we believe our opinions are the only ones that matter. This attitude creates tension when the other party does not feel as though their voice is being heard and respected. Consequently, our communication ends up being one-sided and nonproductive.

I experienced this for years in my own relationship with Mrs. Luke1428. She would often share how our expenses were routinely exceeding our monthly income. She was concerned that we were withdrawing money from our savings each month to cover our credit card bill. I did not clue into the feelings of frustration and anxiety that were subtly being expressed, mostly because I didn’t believe it was a problem.

It took some time for me to realize how this was affecting her. She felt insecure because our savings was dwindling each month. She also felt alone because I didn’t seem to be partnering with her to solve the problem. My overspending and lack of involvement was creating an underlying tension that didn’t need to be there.

Our financial life didn’t change until I was convicted of my spending habits and we began to communicate at a deeper level. Those first steps at communication weren’t easy because we each had personal baggage to talk through. But once we decided to work together and achieve oneness with our finances, things began to change for the better.

What helped us in those early stages was focusing our discussions in these three areas:

Values. Values are nothing more than what is important. You may value frugality and financial security. Your spouse may value brand names and living in the moment. Those values are definitely on track to clash with one another if not dealt with. It’s a must to understand and appreciate what drives the other person. The value discussion was our communication starting point as we began to connect and find some common ground.

Goals. Whereas values reveal what a person believes, goals target a specific future outcome. We dream of something to attain, and then put specific and timely steps in place to reach that milestone. When couples have shared financial goals, they work together in harmony, pooling all their physical and emotional resources to achieve them. They are moving hand-in-hand in the same direction.

Feelings. Sharing feelings might be the biggest communication challenge because it forces us to open up and share deep emotions. This creates vulnerability and makes us feel less in control. It’s also complicated because, in general, sharing feelings is more difficult for men than it is for women. Men tend to bottle feelings up, holding them in…and in…and in…until it becomes too much. Then we explode and the result is almost always conflict.

It’s healthy for couples to routinely share that they are scared, confused, hurt, or angry over a financial issue. Be certain to share how you feel, and not be accusatory. Say things like, “I feel (            ) when (            ).” This admission will demonstrate to your partner how certain actions or the financial situation in general is emotionally challenging for you.

Once my wife and I came together about our values, goals and feelings, we were ready to tackle the next steps of the battle – budgeting and planning the future. It was through these next two steps that our financial life began to take on new meaning and our fighting over money became virtually nonexistent.

That will be the topic for part two.

Questions: Are you tired of fighting over money? What communication challenges are you experiencing right now? What’s your advice for handling disagreements about money?

Image by Michal Marchol at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Next Post: Dealing With My Daughter’s Big Milestone

Prior Post: I’m Running Naked

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  1. When people think of “communicating”, they mostly think about talking. But it’s easy to forget the other side of the equation, which is to listen.

  2. I’m impressed with anyone who started with financial discord and was able to resolve it. I’m lucky in that my wife and I have very similar financial values and goals and so working together has been relatively easy (not all the time, but mostly so). I would think that working together to bridge a real gap like you guys did would do a lot to bring you even closer together.

    • That is going to be the point of my next post. The discussion of values, goals, and feelings sets the stage for couples to work through the nitty-gritty details. That’s usually harder and a more drawn out process than the initial discussions I mentioned here.

  3. Student Debt Survivor says

    Communication is so important in relationships (intimate or otherwise). I’m a huge talker and I like to process just about everything. This is sometimes annoying and overwhelming for bf who says things like, “I’m not your client, stop psychoanalyzing me.”

  4. Kim@Eyesonthedollar says

    We don’t really have any disagreements at the moment, but we used to never talk about spending or saving. There was lots of denial. I think you certainly have to have goals and values to decide how to spend your money, otherwise it just magically disappears and you often don’t have much to show for it.

    • I was in denial for some time. I couldn’t see that our overspending was a big deal (probably because it was mostly me doing the overspending). It’s tough to look yourself in the mirror and admit the truth.

  5. I am really thankful my boyfriend and I agree on most financial matters. We have the same values and goals. We opened up about money fairly early on in our relationship kind of naturally. My ex was the complete opposite of me in terms of money management, and I knew I wanted someone closer to the frugal side after that! You are right that there can be a lot of baggage behind these kinds of discussions, though it can be eye opening as well.

    • That’s great EM! It’s always better when these type of conversations occur naturally. Sounds as though you are both concerned about it and want to be on the same page. That’s the place to be.

  6. I think setting goals together creates a framework for everything else- a discussion of expectations, feelings, etc. I wonder at what point in the relationship this convo needs to start.

    • That’s a good question Stefanie. Not on the first date at least. 🙂 It’s definitely something that should be hashed out before marriage though. I think it’s a big enough deal that if a couple can’t agree on basic money issues, they should not marry one another.

  7. Holly Johnson says

    We have always been on the same page financially for some reason. We’re both frugal and neither one of us have expensive hobbies so it works.

  8. Finances are definitely a big issue for us, as we are trying to pay down debt and save money simultaneously, which can be pretty difficult when you’re both just out of school and potentially have more school to tackle before you are done. Overall, though, we have the same goals which is so important. I’m looking forward to part 2!

    • It’s great that you share the same vision. You’ve conquered a huge portion of the issue by discussing your goals. Now it’s be time to be consistent and see them through together.

  9. Alexa Mason says

    The problem my exhusband and I had was that he didn’t get excited about any goals with me. He handed me the money I took care of it and all he wanted to know was that the bills were paid and he had his spending money. No matter how many times I tried to get him on board with financial goals he just wasn’t into it – and trust me I tried hard.

    • That is a real tough spot to be in Alexa. I’m sure that was very frustrating for you. I fear your scenario is all too common. There isn’t anything positive that comes from a detached man who thinks he knows it all and doesn’t want to yield his viewpoint. To all the men out there, it’s OK to be humble. Doesn’t mean you are less of a man.

  10. Laurie @thefrugalfarmer says

    We were on the same page as you guys were for years, and it definitely creates a rift between marriage partners, doesn’t it? I have to say also that even though that first serious money conversation, the one where we faced our bleak financial picture, was a difficult conversation, we are in a much, much better place now that we know the situation and have created a plan to get to where we both want to be financially. Great post, Brian!

    • You are right Laurie…those first conversations are brutally difficult. It’s tough to own up to our mistakes and not feel as though the finger is being pointed at us. It’s easy to get defensive and blame other factors or people. But the short-term pain will seem like nothing when a couple finally turns the corner and begins to see the benefits that come with change.


  1. Good Reads, and Taking Frugal to a Whole New Level - The Frugal Farmer says:

    […] Brian over at Luke 1428 talked this week about How Couples Can End the Money Fights.  Money is one of the biggest causes of divorce.  Help to protect your marriage today by reading […]

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